Posthuman Glossary

Been reading Rosi Braidotti’s Posthuman Glossary which includes essays by many of the current thinkers within the various posthumanisms: critical, speculative, rational inhumanism, etc.

Reread Peter Wolfendale’s essay “Rational Inhumanism” which incorporates the Prometheanism of Ray Brassier and Reza Negarestani’s inhumanism while adding his own clarification of this view as against critical and speculative posthumanisms. For Brassier prometheanism was  at the core of the Marxian legacy opened up by the Enlightenment: ” I take it that this also underlies Marx’s claim about what is distinctive in human species-being: human beings have this unique capacity to transform themselves and their world because of the fundamentally social nature of human existence.”1 While for Negarestani inhumanism is the “extended practical elaboration of humanism; it is born out of a diligent commitment to the project of enlightened humanism. As a universal wave that erases the self-portrait of man drawn in sand, inhumanism is a vector of revision.”2

The key to both visions is the notion of re-visioning or re-engineering the Enlightenment conception of Man with one that aligns with a more stringent conception that erases the humanistic centrality of the human displacing it from both theocentric and anthropocentric concerns while at the same time promoting a posthuman turn that allows for a plasticity in which both a revalutation-of-all-values in both rationalist and biodecentric relations is given priority. This decentering of both man and reason from its humanistic sources opens up a revisioning process that sees the Enlightenment project in a new light.

Wolfendale will attack both vitalist and metaphysical returns in critical and speculative forms while portraying rational inhumanism as navigating the fine line between constraints placed by both the normative and metaphysical on the divides in-between rationality and animality. There is also a subtle critique of Marxian alienation as a negative force whereby rational inhumanism defines it as a positive force overcoming these constraints that trap us in humanistic naturalism and metaphysical ploys. As he’ll tell us (3):

There are distinct promethean projects concerned with each obstacle just mentioned: accelerationism strives to turn the emancipatory tendencies of modernity against the oppressive sociality of capitalism ( Srnicek and Williams 2014 ), xenofeminism aims to harness the artificiality of identity by rejecting the givenness of material conditions (sex) and social forms (gender) alike ( Laboria Cuboniks 2015 ), and cosmism enjoins us ‘to consider the earth a trap’, treating gravity as one more constraint to be over come by the ‘generalised escapology’ of design ( Singleton 2014 ). The inhumanism of these projects lies in their embrace of alienation as a positive force, transforming our progressive exile from a series of Edenic harmonies – be they economic, sociological or environmental – into an esoteric genealogy of freedom. (381).

Ultimately, what differentiates critical and speculative posthumanism from rationalist inhumanism is that they overcome ‘Man’ by renewing metaphysics rather than transcendentalism ( Foucault 2002 : 372). Critical posthumanism collapses the distinction between human and non- human by positing a universal vitality – zoe – in which both partake ( Braidotti 2013 : 131), whereas speculative posthuman ism articulates the disconnect between human and posthuman by positing a category of functionally autonomous assemblages to which both belong ( Roden 2015 : 124–49). The choice between these paths can be framed in terms of the perennial picture from which we began: do we unbind animality from the normative constraints of rationality, or unbind rationality from the metaphysical constraints of animality? (382).

  1. Robin Mackay. Speculative Aesthetics (Kindle Locations 1218-1221). Urbanomic. Kindle Edition.
  2. Negarestani, Reza. The Labor of the Inhuman. e-flux Journal #52 – February 2014
  3. Braidotti, Rosi. Posthuman Glossary. Rosi Braidotti (Editor), Maria Hlavajova (Editor) Bloomsbury Academic (February 22, 2018)